All Voices have short report on Li Xiaoshuan’s Gymnastics School, Xiantao in the Hubei province. Gymnasts such as Li Xiaoshuang (gold Barcelona 1992 & Atlanta 1996), Zheng Li (Gold Sydney 2000) and Yang Wei (Team gold Sydney 2000) have attended the school.
Most students in this school are the kids at a very young age. According to the report, 80% of their parents are the one who work in business so they rarely have enough time to take care of their children. For that reason, they leave the kids in the care of school and hope that their children would be the good athletes in the future.
As being enrolled in Li Xiaoshuan, the kids start their independent life under the coach’s management. Besides the 8-hour training program everyday, they have to spend time on studying.
During the intense training time, the kids must do many tough exercises following the coach’s instructions. At the beginning, they cry a lot and want to give up because they can’t tolerate the intensity and pressure of the training course. They are considered to begin their new life as an athlete and have to leave their childhood behind.
Photo courtesy of Ariana Lindquist for NPR
I always take these types articles on gymnastics in China with a pinch of salt. If you click through to the report you will see pictures of young gymnasts being held in stretches and being made do conditioning. As discussed before, stretching and conditioning are all part of gymnastics. An interesting article from 2008 about Li Xiaoshuans’s Gymnastics School also stresses this and highlights that the Chinese gymnasts may be in somewhat “pampered” compared to their USA rivals:
Pressured And Pampered
Gymnastics — in any country — is a tough and painful sport. And Beijing’s sports machine has generally had bad press. Yet some argue that Chinese athletes are in some ways more fortunate than their Western counterparts, particularly as they are paid a government salary.
“Financially, their life is probably a bit easier than most athletes, at least in the U.S.,” argues Susan Brownell, a sports anthropologist from the University of Missouri, who has been working at Beijing Sports University.
“Most Olympic athletes in the U.S. are still supporting themselves by college scholarships or other jobs,” says Brownell. “The result in China is that athletes can concentrate fully on their training.”
Brownell trained as a college athlete both in the United States and China. She says for athletes, life in China is in some ways easier than it is in the U.S.
“They seemed to me a little bit more pampered,” she says. “You did have people who cared about your physical and psychological well-being taking care of you. If I needed a massage, I could get a massage. In comparison, in the U.S. a lot was left up to me.”
If you haven’t read it before, I suggest reading the 2008 article, I always find articles relating to Chinese Gymnastics interesting. I think that this is one of the more fair and realistic articles as some can be rather dramatic. The audio slideshow is pretty cool too.